The Basics of Health Literacy

“When Kenneth was 5, he had to have a minor surgery. Trying to do pre-op teaching, I was using all the skills that I was learning in nursing school. I told him, “In the morning they will come for you with a stretcher…” His eyes got very big, and he asked, “How far will they stretch me”?”

Health literacy means that the information and messages related to our health are understood. Health literacy has been touted as the best way to ensure that patients are engaged and actively participating in their healthcare. However, more than 90 million Americans have difficulty understanding and acting upon health information! All of us may be included in that number at any point. While we may be experts in chronic kidney disease and dialysis treatment, do we know enough to readily engage and assume an active role in our own healthcare should the diagnosis be lung cancer, stroke, or spinal cord injury? Not likely!

And, we should not expect our patients to be any more literate about their diagnosis and treatment options unless we act to help them.

Glenda Payne used her personal story about her son’s concern about being “stretched” when she spoke to a group this past January about health literacy. Go to her slide presentation to see the advice she provides. Basics of Health Literacy